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Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Developmental Delays Underutilized

Results of a new University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine study are raising concerns regarding the nation’s children suffering from developmental delays. An early intervention program run by all 50 states is available for children under age three but it is not being utilized, especially for African-American children. The study published May 26 in Pediatrics.

Part C early intervention is specified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) as an early intervention program for children age 3 and younger with developmental delays. In 2002, Part C early intervention served more than 265,000 infants and toddlers – 2.2 percent of the nation’s children under the age of three – reflecting the U.S. Department of Education’s goal of providing Part C services to at least 2 percent of the nation’s children. However, far more infants and toddlers are eligible for Part C than are currently served.

“This study documents high rates of Part C eligibility nationally but found only a small proportion of children who are likely to be Part C eligible actually receive early intervention,” said Steven Rosenberg, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at UC Denver School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator.

Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-B), a survey which provides developmental and family data on a national sample of children born in 2001, Rosenberg and his colleagues, Zhang, and Robinson, used data collected when these children were 9 and 24 months of age and found that 13 percent of the nation’s infants and toddlers have developmental delays likely to make them eligible for Part C early intervention. However, only 10 percent of these eligible children actually receive services for their developmental needs. The results of this study also indicate that African-American children are half as likely to receive early intervention services as Caucasian children.

“The states have an obligation to provide equitable access to early intervention for all eligible infants and toddlers, but lack the capacity to serve all of them,” said Rosenberg. “I think there is a need for national discussion about how Part C is structured and how the apparent inequities in access to services and supports are best addressed.”

The School of Medicine faculty work to advance science and improve care as the physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Hospital, The Children’s Hospital, Denver Health, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Degrees offered by the UC Denver School of Medicine include doctor of medicine, doctor of physical therapy, and masters of physician assistant studies. The School is part of the University of Colorado Denver, one of three universities in the University of Colorado system.

Caitlin Jenney | newswise
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